Wednesday, May 9, 2007

What is being reported in the media about the CBC Radio Two changes?

Although I haven't been searching for newspaper articles on the recent changes in the CBC Radio Two evening schedule, I have found several of interest.

The first is from the Ottawa Citizen on May 5. Here are some excerpts:

"More changes are coming the way of Two but nothing CBC radio management is ready to talk publicly about. What they will happily talk about are ratings, which, given current trends in radio, are impressive."

I find this mind boggling! CBC radio management is planning more changes, but they are not ready to talk publicly about these changes! Are they doing surveys? Actively consulting the CBC radio listeners? Announcing these changes well in advance and requesting feedback from the consumer, who also happens to be a shareholder in the corporation? Apparently not.

"While commercial radio listening is down across the board in Canada, CBC has held steady and its listeners have remained faithful: Nationally, CBC radio commands about a 10-per-cent share of the radio audience with larger chunks in some areas -- most notably in the Ottawa region where a quarter of the adult radio listening population is all CBC all the time -- either Oneor Two or a slice of both. The remaining three-quarters is scattered among the myriad of commercial stations."

Imagine this - you have a 10% market share in a competitive industry where consumers can easily switch to your competitors (at the touch of a button!), and yet you are willing to blow off your customers by making radical changes in your product without first surveying your customers to determine if you will lose them as customers! Does no one in CBC Radio management remember past marketing gaffes - for example, the New Coke debacle?

"Nationally, those CBC percentages mean that approximately 2.75 million adult anglophones listen to Radio One each week while about 850,000 tune in to Radio Two. The numbers are approximate because CBC only calculates data in areas of the country where it owns stations."

Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Satellite Radio - are you listening? Would you like to have 850,000 new subscribers?

"Another way of looking at it is that about one in seven radio-listening Canadians regularly tune in to Radio One and about one in 20 listen regularly to Radio Two. That share of the audience hasn't changed significantly for many years but data shows that CBC listeners are tuning in for longer periods and listening less to other stations."

This should be a dream come true for any company. Consumers use your product regularly, your market share may not be growing, but at least it's not declining and the consumer is using your product more each day. What's more, you have a guaranteed source of revenue - the ever-suffering taxpayer!

"Barry Kiefl, a ratings specialist and president of Ottawa-based Canadian Media Research, says it's difficult for non-CBC listeners to appreciate the loyalty that CBC radio commands.

"When you tell people outside of that one-quarter group that CBC radio is No. 1 in Ottawa," he says, "they don't believe you because they never listen to CBC." As with most radio, commercial or public, CBC gets its biggest audiences in the mornings. Anna Maria Tremonti, host of The Current, is the most listened to morning radio host in Canada.

The CBC says it is now in the top three in 14 of the 18 markets in which it has stations. So if it wasn't broken, why fix it? Challenging what appears to be an obvious conclusion, Jennifer McGuire, chief of CBC radio programming, says the Radio Two changes were implemented not to attract a younger audience but a "sustainable" one."

Hmmm, what is more sustainable than an audience that listens to you until the day they die? Do they really believe that the former CBC Radio Two audience, who have very likely abandoned CBC Radio Two in droves, will be replaced by an equal number of 35 - 49 year olds? What incentive is there for a listener to abandon their favourite radio station for CBC Radio Two?

" "The Radio Two audience is good and very important to us," she says, "but the reality is that no new audience is coming in and any new audience that does come in is in the 65-plus demographic. So there are no 50-, 40- or 30-year-olds coming in. Long term that is not sustainable. But we're targeting the service to adults; we're not going after teenagers." "

I find this somewhat laughable. Are we really to believe that there are 65+ year olds who are suddenly deciding to listen to CBC Radio Two, abandoning perhaps Q-107 in Toronto, CHEZ 106 in Ottawa? No, CBC Radio Two is something that you discover relatively early in life. What better sustainable audience is there than a new cohort each year of twenty-something listeners who are looking for an alternative to commercial radio? And by "an alternative to commercial radio" I do not mean a public broadcaster playing music similar to what is already on commercial radio.

"There were two other considerations also, she says: To widen the musical selection of CBC to better reflect the homegrown musical output and to make Radio Two relevant where it currently has no impact -- especially in the Maritimes where its audience is tiny to non-existent. "Radio Two does well in Vancouver but does badly in the Maritimes," says McGuire. "And that matters." Two, she hastens to add, is still 88-per-cent classical but has broadened its jazz content and, with Canada Live, will carry more "regional" music."

Still 88% until CBC Radio management guts the daytime schedule, as they have the evening schedule.

"McGuire's decision to shorten news content on Radio Two is forcing news junkies to flip channels and, according to listener reaction, is a major irritant. Changes at Radio One, adds McGuire, are also being driven by the results of a massive arts and culture study the CBC launched across the country three years ago.

"It had implications for Radio One around comedy, arts journalism and drama," she says. Which is why there will be more drama in morning prime time and more comedy and arts journalism across the schedule. For better or worse, the changes mean that some programs have bitten the dust, including Radio One's trailblazing Global Village that featured world music and mini-documentaries from around the globe. The rest of the CBC schedule simply caught up with Global Village, says McGuire.

"Global Village was a phenomenal success story," she says, "but we found that a lot of the musicians it was bringing to CBC radio are now part of our mainstream. It's the same thing with the stories -- many you'll be hearing on The Current. So the need that created Global Village has morphed into something that's more mainstream." Faithful listeners exact a price for their loyalty and reaction to the changes -- especially on Radio Two -- has not been universally warm. Listeners communicate through Internet discussion groups and blogs -- including the CBC's own blog, which has featured much discussion."

Ha! Just try finding a blog to make your comments! As you will have noticed if you have been reading my entries to this blog.

"Friends of Canadian Broadcasting spokesman Ian Morrison says he hasn't been inundated with complaints but has had "a few e-mails" every day since the changes began. "The writers aren't in cahoots but you notice certain patterns," he says. "

Patterns, for example, such as outrage that, as a shareholder, you were not consulted? Feelings of betrayal after your decades-long loyalty was snubbed?

" "These people seem to feel that Radio Two belongs to them and it's part of their life. If someone mucks around with it, it really pisses them off and they say it's going to the dogs. I'm sureit's not going to the dogs. It's changing and if it didn't change over time it would end up becoming totally irrelevant. Some people really like the changes, I'm sure, but they don't send e-mails to Ian Morrison saying 'what the hell is happening?' " "

"These people seem to feel that Radio Two belongs to them and it's part of their life". Well, perhaps people seem to feel that Radio Two belongs to them because it does in fact belong to them. See clause 3.(1) of the Broadcasting Act, 1991, which states:

It is hereby declared as the broadcasting policy for Canada that
(a) the Canadian broadcasting system shall be effectively owned and controlled by Canadians

"Although CBC radio runs relatively cheaply -- Radio One costs about $100-million a year and Radio Two $10- to $12-million -- the publicly funded broadcaster runs a risk, however small, of irritating influential decision-makers.

"CBC is clearly making a determined effort to reach certain demographics," Morrison says, "but in the process they are annoying a lot of very important Canadians -- judges, CEOs, politicians etc. I don't know how to quantify that elite thing but there could be a political implication -- you're annoying people who are the decision-makers or who talk to decision-makers. But in a month or two I think it will settle down and people will be used to it." "

Finally, a point I can agree with. Yes, in a month or two it will settle down - only because CBC Radio Two listeners will have moved to other stations - Espace Musique, Couleur FM in the Ottawa/Gatineau region, Classical 96.3 FM in the Toronto area or Sirius or XM satellite radio across the country.

The second article is from the April 9 Montreal Gazette, by Mr. Hugh Anderson. You may read the entire article here. I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Anderson. I wish there were more in the media like Mr. Anderson who would write on this topic.

If you are aware of any other newspaper articles, please let me know. I'll add links to them on this site.

1 comment:

Rekkeb said...

Exchange of e-mails between Helmut Becker (artist), Dr Henry Becker (scientist) and Joseph Hubbard (sculptor) regarding recent cultural cuts by Conservative government and the "new" CBC Radio 2 :
E-mail to my brother:
“Have you listened to CBC Radio 2 lately? It has been completely destroyed and turned into a short attention span "syndrome" of short, short, short, repeat, repeat, repeat, popular music. Gone are the priceless programs like Eric Friesen's 3 hours or Catherine Belyea's morning 3 hours. Working on an art project with London Artist, Kirtley Jarvis at the same 7 P.M. hour, she asked what is that NOISE! I said it’s the replacement for Radio 2’s Music for a While on Radio 2 hosted by Danielle Charbonneau. TURN IT OFF! ... I used to look forward to a one hour evening walk near sun down all the while listening to Music for a While on my sony walkman. Danielle Charbonneau’s taste in classical music was impeccable. Now replaced by repeat noise. On and on and on and on ...classical programming has been axed!!!!!!!!!””

Create a new all classical CBC 7 (7 for good luck) with quality programming similar to BBC R3.
A new Government needs to significantly increase funding to the Arts similar to UK and European Countries. Revive CBC Radio Symphony.”
Helmut Becker

- reply from my brother to my e-mail:
“There's been a pogrom at CBC2 and the guys who done it are a pack of fascists. What they now offer is the same fare available at dozens of commercial stations that actually offer more: some specialize in country & western, some in hard rock, etc., so you can pick your poison. So who's going to favour CBC with its hodgepodge, neither fish nor fowl? They've dumbed it down and thrown out some of the cream of the world's best radio hosts. They've alienated a devoted and loyal audience. They've struck a vicious blow at culture in Canada. They've acted on the Harper guideline--you can cut anything that doesn't pander to mainstream values. Damn him! Well, there's a chance the chickens will come home to roost, certainly if Harper doesn't win the election. I think the reaction has only begun.
Dr Henry Becker, Canadian Research Scientist, Kingston

e-mail reply from Joseph Hubbard:
I agree with the blogspots you have reprinted, Helmut, in regards to CBC. This completely abrogates their cultural responsibilities. And CBC TV is no better under their new American extreme free-market leadership. Replacing 30 years of investigative journalism in /Marketplace/ with the gameshow /Jeopardy/--whose only concession to Canadian content is the host? When I came to this country 38 years ago and spent a hellish first winter in Kingston, the only bright spot was listening to CBC radio and watching CBC TV. I learned a lot about Canada. If I were to arrive this year, I would turn around and go somewhere else, like Sweden.
Joseph Hubbard